A TASTY TRADITION 2 Pauls' meat loaf.
In the Rhode Island tradition of identifying a place by saying it’s where someplace else used to be, 2 Pauls’ City Grille is where Vine Yard East used to be — and Joseph’s and Cattails and a list of other restaurants. It’s a notoriously risky business; the attrition rate of restaurateurs approaches that of professional Russian roulette players.
This place has a better shot at lasting, though. Its namesakes are chef Paul Shire, who has brought some recipes from the Downcity Diner he co-founded, and his friend Paul Roidoulis, for whom their popular Roi restaurant, in the Jewelry District, was named. In all fairness, 2 Pauls’ should be called Shi, but odds are they’re over any spat that suggestion may have engendered. Their publicity says that they met on a golf course and bonded at a Grateful Dead concert, so they’re bros.
We sure are talking comfort food. For brunch you can have buttermilk pancakes ($5.50) or a choice of five eggs Benedict variations; for lunch, chicken noodle soup ($5.95) and a Saugy hot dog plate ($7.95); for dinner, franks (those RI Saugys again) and beans ($9.95) or mac and four cheeses ($9.95). Not necessarily all on the same day, but if you need that much comforting, I’m sure one of the Paul’s mothers might be called on to do the serving and tuck the napkin under your chin.
There are eight each red and white wines by the glass ($6-$7), and a half-dozen more pricier ones by the bottle; plus four beers on tap and 20 in bottles. Their specialty drinks ($9.95) include a signature root beer float for an extra buck, oddly popular everywhere these days. Their version is better thought-out with vanilla vodka, Kahlua, and a splash of orange juice as well as a scoop of vanilla. I had the Pama Rita and would recommend it — silver tequila, cointreau, and Pama pomegranite liqueur. Tasty.
For a starter, their signature fried calamari ($9.95/$12.95) has the squid tossed with garlic-herb butter and mixed hot peppers. I strongly considered the BBQ rib appetizer ($10.95) and its molasses barbecue sauce, but we settled on the polenta fries ($8.95) and shrimp Mozambique ($12.95). I usually avoid dishes with the currently ubiquitous Gorgonzola because it tends to blast out other flavors, but polenta is a bland carrier that doesn’t compete with the strong taste, so it worked here, especially with the slightly spicy tomato sauce beneath that was different enough to come through. The shrimp, eight of them, were in a spicy red sauce and had broiled garlic bread to soak it up. Nice.
There are burgers and sandwiches on the dinner menu, since the diner is the boss here and sometimes a meatball grinder ($10.95) is just what you want. There are also 10 Italian items in their own category, from lasagne ($14.95) to chicken to veal marsala ($16.95).